I think about my grandpa a lot. He was my favorite person, my closest family, one of the most wonderful people I have ever known. And like me, he was afraid of death. And I wonder then, what it was like for him when he knew it was coming.
Mostly, I feel guilt that I wasn’t there for him. I hardly saw him at all during his last year. And it was a hard year for him, not just because he saw death approaching and he didn’t have the mobility to do the things he loved, but because my grandma had just died and he felt so sad and alone.
I should have been there all the time, but I was caught up in my own life and didn’t want to have to deal with my mom, and really, it’s all petty compared with the gaping hole in my life now that he’s not here. I could have had more time with him.
I know that you can’t second guess and that everything is easier in hindsight, but I should have flown down early. He told my sister that he was dying. To let everyone know. And the family ignored him. He was just being old and sad and sick. But he was right. And I already had a flight booked for later that week and so instead of flying right down, I waited.
And when I landed, I got the call that he was in the hospital and might not wake up.
It’s not that I wanted to be able to say goodbye to him, although I did. It’s that I wanted him to know that I was there for him. But I wasn’t there for him. I wanted him to feel loved in his last days, to realize how much he had done for me and meant to me. I didn’t want him to feel alone and neglected as he faced the scariest thing he’d ever known.
But I wasn’t there.
With my grandma, she spent her last days at the hospital, but even though she was in and out of present day, she knew I was there. At least in those final, scary, lonely days, she knew those who loved her were there.
My grandpa spent a week feeling frail and helpless, knowing it was likely his last week, and I didn’t come. And then he spent several more days in the hospital, with the family standing around talking over him like he was a coffee table.
I leaned over and held his hand and whispered in his ear, but I don’t really know if he heard me. And then he was gone.
I know it sounds pretentious and unrealistic and like I wear a beret and drink alcohol no one can pronounce and read only feminist novels and argue with everyone around me about the plight of the working class and march for improved health through unpasteurized milk, but I want to spend the little life I have on meaningful things. I want to have meaningful conversation about stuff that matters. I don’t want to be too afraid to be vulnerable and honest and have so many walls that I live my life alone, surrounded by people and noise.
I’m all good on the pateurization thing though.